San Francisco Giants Will Still Win NL West and Here's Why
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The San Francisco Giants are currently involved in one of the more compelling races to the postseason.
They sit atop the rival Los Angeles Dodgers by just 1.5 games in the NL West with only 39 left to play. LA hosts the Giants for the finale of a three-game set this evening, having lost the first two matchups of the series.
Madison Bumgarner outdueled ace Clayton Kershaw in a classic Game 1 battle. He matched his opponent’s strikeout total (10) and one-upped him with zeros through all eight innings pitched for the win.
The second matchup featured a quasi-return of the dominant Tim Lincecum. He limited the enemy to a single run over five and two-thirds innings in a 4-1 Giants victory
The war, though, is not yet over. These teams duke it out seven more times in the regular season. A duel between Matt Cain and Chris Capuano concludes this month’s action until the heat turns up again on Sept. 7 in San Francisco.
Appropriately enough, the 2012 season comes to a close with an expected nail-biter of a series between the two clubs at Chavez Ravine in October.
Whether that final series or an earlier one serves as the ultimate deciding factor for the divisional crown, the Giants will win the NL West by season’s end.
Let’s move beyond this whole Melky Cabrera fiasco and detail why the Giants—and not the Dodgers—will come out on top with the division title.
Life Goes on Without Melky
Well, at least some people still appreciate the Melk Man.
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It goes without saying that Melky Cabrera was a significant force in the Giants’ lineup. After all, he was the major leagues' leader in hits at the time of his suspension.
That still doesn’t mean the G-Men can’t overcome the loss of the Melk Man.
According to Dan Szymborksi of the Baseball Think Factory, Melky was worth approximately one win in the standings (via BayCityBall.com). Tight divisional race notwithstanding, one win is simply not enough to derail San Francisco’s playoff hopes.
Just because it can happen doesn’t necessitate that it absolutely will happen.
First of all, Buster Posey was, and still is the Giants' best hitter.
He supplies greater power, compiles a better OBP/SLG/OPS, still bats in the high .320s and rates higher in wins above replacement. That final metric includes both hitting and defense.
Buster is a more impactful hitter in the Giants’ lineup any way you look at it.
Furthermore, the "Kung Fu Panda" Pablo Sandoval has missed extended time this year. With his power numbers and .300-plus hitting capabilities, he can help replace the loss of Cabrera. Keeping his hamstring loose and remaining on the field are his greatest obstacles.
The additions of Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence and the late-season resurgence of Brandon Belt will also help offset Cabrera’s absence. The Giants will certainly not miss a beat either with Gregor Blanco in the outfield. We all can remember his perfect-game saving catch back in June.
In no way am I saying that the Giants won’t miss the Melk Man is some way, shape or form. But his loss isn’t grounds for preparation for the apocalypse. The team can still hit.
And it’s not like LA features a veritable murderer’s row in its lineup. Only one player actually qualifies for the batting title.
San Francisco can and will win this division. Let’s move on to the second reason corroborating this assertion.
Superior Starting Pitching
Bumgarner absolutely dealt on Monday.
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Popular lingo in the National Basketball Association dictates that teams must feature a “Big Three.” You’re neither cool nor a viable entity without one.
Well, if we appropriate trendy NBA vernacular and apply it to baseball, the Giants’ Big Three is way cooler than the Dodgers’.
The trio of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong mean more to their team than Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano and Chad Billingsley do to theirs.
Cainer, MadBum and Vogeltron all sport a sub-3.00 ERA, better WHIP and most notably, a collectively superior wins above replacement metric. This will pay dividends any time the Giants may need a series win in a crucial three-game set down the stretch.
Also, two-thirds of San Francisco’s Big Three (Cain, Bumgarner) have invaluable World Series experience to their credit. They have pitched—and won—on baseball’s biggest stage; they can derive inspiration from that experience when the season grinds out to a close.
Similarly, Tim Lincecum can tap into his 2010 month of September for how quickly things can turn around at the most pivotal of times. Big Time Timmy Jim posted an incredible 5-1 record, 1.94 ERA and 52-8 K-BB ratio the final month of the season after going 0-5 with an 7.82 ERA and hitting rock bottom in August.
Is this the same Lincecum from 2010? Well, certainly not, but I’d have more trust in a magical turnaround from a former Cy Young winner than the Dodgers’ Aaron Harang and Joe Blanton.
One cannot also discount Vogelsong’s resilience in overcoming so many obstacles to become a front-line starter. Pitching in Japan and four years removed from the majors tend to harden a man for the better.
For the Dodgers, the club does own a slight advantage in the strength of its bullpen.
Then again, the boys in the Giants ‘pen also have one of those World Series rings. That will prove more advantageous than any small technical edge in a statistical category.
Winnable September Schedule
Expect much of the same against the Rockies down the stretch.
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Allow me to pose a quick either/or.
Which would you rather face—a 10-game stretch starting with four against the defending World Series champion Cardinals, then followed by six on the road against the very best in Major League Baseball—the Nationals and Reds?
My money’s on the second option—but that’s just me.
Dodgers fans will be quick to point out that their team gets its final six games at home after that rough stretch. The final three have the Giants rolling into enemy territory at Chavez Ravine, they might also say.
My counterargument would state that the Giants have won the past two series on the road against the first of its two final opponents (Padres in San Diego). It would then say that LA hasn’t exactly been unwinnable territory; the G-Men are an even 2-2 in that park, effectively negating that potential disadvantage.
Overall, then, San Francisco has a much more winnable September schedule. This includes all but two games against NL West foes—with the Giants going 25-17 against them—and ending with two ballparks in which the Giants have won the majority of their games.
The insufferable boys in blue, meanwhile, must navigate a brutal three-series span in mid-September.
First comes the team with No. 1 offense in the NL, followed by the team ranked No. 1 in pitching in the majors, and ending with the best team in all of baseball—it’s fair to say that this is a make-or-break stretch.
Let’s place more emphasis on the latter.
Post-Melky success, prowess of the starting staff and a vanilla schedule—the Giants will win the NL West in 2012.
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